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Un Magazine 14.1

Caravan

Alison Whittaker

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12/20

Article

three caravans out the back
fridge under the house
floodwater been coming up
two bedroom fibro
boat tied to the side
five kids moving all their stuff up
a big boiler for washing
caravans going somewhere else sans occupants
and there were a dozen occupants

the days before climate catastrophe
was a well-worn concept
we were in a catastrophe of another kind
and the climate with us
and mob dispersed to a particular little side street
because it’s cheap and also because it’s
a place you never have to go if you’re white
and also because it’s
overlooking a river we loved
draining, draining and then not
and then big
and then we flee

we care but our sense of how to care
is so deprived of an outlet or resources
a nicely dressed hand caressing a sucking chest wound

Nan she likes sapphires, big cheap dark ones on rings
they’re in a box so if it floods
she can run with them
run hot like the dirt mist floors over Tipperina Reserve
where she told my Pop, as he courted her
with rough hands and a tin wall
I can’t live here. I can’t, like this
a moot point, it turned out
in all the ways. It got shut down
when gument control
passed from state to commonwealth
sydney building to canberra building
kept against will and then kept away

it was 1967, and then it wasn’t
then it was 1983 and then it was 1970
and then it was 2002
the namaay and us running to
a two bedroom fibro on
a beloved flood plain
via ones that looked just the same
in Manilla and then Tamworth
and then via a vital urge
to be kept together by catastrophe
and then by something else
and then not always.

one caravan under a tarp
fridge in the shed
dirt is cracked, river reeds on fire
four bedroom red brick

i’m not fleeing nothing now, I’m
helping someone I love wash up, we’re
both taking SSRIs and
calcium channel blockers because
we’re depressed and our blood pressure is
one ninety over ninety five. it was 1995 and i was
three until i wasn’t and i was there until i wasn’t
hey, it’s a metaphor for mobility and betrayal
but I’m better at Gamilaraay, for some reason, in the city

climate catastrophe, big word around
since everyone found themself coming down with us
we’re out here now like cappuccino foaming
still more or less bogan, still hissing with despair
but hey we’re in on the facebook coffee mum memes
dispersed to a part of the town where
upwardly mobile mob get a shed, net and aircon
because it’s mid-tier and also because it’s
close enough to the other place, drought
draining, draining and draining and draining
and then we can flush a toilet just once a day
and then we flee

who can bear to touch the wound anymore?
even with a sapphire hand
even with all these archives
even with Pop in a box while Nan runs with him
under a dirt floor, under the memory of flood
under under under that vital urge
not under and then under.

Alison Whittaker is a Gomeroi multitasker from the floodplains of Gunnedah in NSW. Between 2017–18, she was a Fulbright scholar at Harvard Law School, where she was named the Dean’s Scholar in Race, Gender and Criminal Law.